Weasel Word - Tips

Weasel word

Quote:
A weasel word is a word that is intended to, or has the effect of, softening the force of a potentially loaded or otherwise controversial statement. This phrase appears in Stewart Chaplin's short story Stained Glass Political Platform published in 1900 in The Century Magazine according to The Macmillan Dictionary of Contemporary Phrase and Fable : "Why, weasel words are words that suck the life out of the words next to them, just as a weasel sucks the egg and leaves the shell." Thus, weasel words suck the meaning out of a statement while seeming to keep the idea intact, and are particularly associated with political pronouncements. Weasel words are used euphemistically. The term invokes the image of a weasel being sneaky and well able to wiggle out of a tight spot. Weasel words work, ad nauseum, as in commercial lingo to glide over an uncomfortable fact (therefore "headcount reduction"" replaces "firing staff")[1]], or to create a sense of grandeur and inflated importance (and so "transitory staffing solution provider" substitutes for "temp agency"). Too many more examples of the widespread and indiscriminate usages of corporate jargon, inflicted scatter-shot on the unwary consumer, could be easily provided. Generally, weasel terms are statements that are misleading because they lack the normal substantiations of their truthfulness, as well as the background information against which these statements are made. Weasel terms are the equivalent of spin in the political sphere in British English. Carl Wrighter identified weasel words in his book I Can Sell You Anything (1972). Earlier in his Report on Unidentified Flying Objects (1956), U.S. Air Force Captain Edward J. Ruppelt described astronomer Dr. J. Allen Hynek's report on the death of Air Force Pilot Thomas Mantell in pursuit of a UFO as "a masterpiece in the art of 'weasel wording'."[2] Weasel words are almost always intended to deceive or draw attention from something the speaker doesn't want emphasized, rather than being the inadvertent result of the speaker's or writer's poor but honest attempt at description. Australian author Don Watson has collected two volumes (Death Sentence and Watson's Dictionary of Weasel Words) documenting the increasing use of weasel words in government and corporate language. He maintains a website [3] encouraging people to identify and nominate examples of weasely language, which gives many examples of dissimulation through excessive verbosity. Watson was previously a speech writer for Australian Prime Minister Paul Keating. "I realized that the purpose of writing is to inflate weak ideas, obscure poor reasoning, and inhibit clarity." Bill Watterson, Homicidal Psycho Jungle Cat page 62
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http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Weasel_word
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Avoid_weasel_words Weasel word

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